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Tuesday, January 10, 2012

This is What $16 Million in Transportation Cuts Looks Like

Posted by Sarah Mirk on Tue, Jan 10, 2012 at 10:14 AM

The Portland Bureau of Transportation is looking down the barrel at a $15-16 million budget cut, planing to axe nearly 14 percent of its general transportation fund. Last week, the bureau laid out the list of projects on the chopping block.

Bike boulevard funding has lots of company on the chopping block
  • Bike boulevard funding has lots of company on the chopping block

As I reported last month, since city hall is committed to still funding the really big projects—like the streetcar expansion, light rail extension, and Sellwood Bridge—the cuts are hitting myriad small places. Here's the whole draft list of budget cut impacts (pdf).

The biggest change Portlanders will probably see from the cuts, if they go through as planned, is a shift from proactive city inspection of infrastructure like sidewalks and streetlights to inspection driven by complaints. So repairs will happen in those areas that speak up about bad lightbulbs and broken concrete while neighbors who don't go through the complaint process will be left in the dark.

Only a handful of endeavors are slated to be entirely scrapped, like the Downtown Marketing Plan's $647,000 budget. Most are taking a hefty hit in the form of cuts ranging from several thousand dollars to several million.

Sidewalks and road paving are slated to take those million dollar hits. The city is cutting some major repaving projects to save $4.4 million a year. Thirty percent of the budget to make sidewalks accessible for people with disabilities—by installing curb cuts and new concrete—is being cut, along with 46 percent of the sidewalk inspection budget.

Other services getting sliced include 73 percent of the traffic operations' special events budget: that could mean the city pulling $50,000 in funding from Sunday Parkways and the nearly $3,000 it spends monthly during the summer on diverting traffic for Last Thursday. The city is also looking to cut $215,000 from the parking meter maintenance budget, so look forward to parking meters that refuse to take your card, and 12 percent of its budget for fixing streetlights.

On the alternative transportation front, the city is looking to cut 10 percent of its $1 million bike boulevards budget, so that could delay or scrap plans to remake neighborhood streets around the city. It's also reducing the number of bike racks it will install, fix, or move annually from 1,400 to 900. We're also cutting street cleaning by $300,000 (22 percent of its budget) and specifically cutting cleaning of bike lanes and sidewalks by $50,000 (38 percent of that budget). The cuts also include 50 percent of the city's annual $20,000 contribution convention RailVolution and a reduction in off-peak service for the streetcar.

Is there anything the city can do to stop the cuts? There are always new revenue ideas or city hall could decide to scrap one of the major projects. But, for now, it looks like the city is just going to tighten its belt.

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